Ghana Politics

LGBTQ+ debate: I was ‘impressed’ by intervention of ‘very renowned’, ‘well-positioned’ CSO people – Akufo-Addo

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President Nana Akufo-Addo has said he was “very impressed” by the memorandum sent to parliament’s Legal and Constitutional Committee by some renowned Ghanaians within the civil society organisation space in connection with the anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

In their memorandum, the 18 academics, lawyers and renowned professionals in various fields, described the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 as “undemocratic”.

In their view, the bill, which is being championed by some legislators, is an “impermissible invasion of the inviolability of human dignity.”

The private members’ bill, which is in the works, is proposing a 10-year jail term for offenders, including promoters of any sexuality that falls within the LGBTQI+ spectrum other than between a man and a woman.

The 36-page bill, which is yet to be considered by parliament, seeks to unequivocally criminalise LGBTQI+ activities.

Among other things, it says people of the same sex who engage in sexual intercourse are “liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than seven hundred and fifty penalty units and not more than five thousand penalty units, or to a term of imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than five years or both.”

It covers any person who “holds out as a lesbian, a gay, a transgender, a transsexual, a queer, a pansexual, an ally, a non-binary or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”

The bill is not only targeting persons of LGBTQI+ orientation but also promoters of such spectrum of sexuality.

For instance, it proposes that: “A person who, by use of media, technological platform, technological account or any other means, produces, procures, markets, broadcasts, disseminates, publishes or distributes a material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill, or a person uses an electronic device, the Internet service, a film, or any other device capable of electronic storage or transmission to produce, procure, market, broadcast, disseminate, publishes or distribute a material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years.”

Additionally, it suggests that persons who engage in any activity that “promotes, supports sympathy for or a change of public opinion towards an act prohibited under the Bill” be held liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years or not more than ten years.

It also wants all LGBTQ+ groups, societies, associations, clubs, and organisations disbanded.

Flouters of this section could face up to not less than six years or not more than ten years imprisonment.

In the view of the renowned professionals opposing the bill, railroading it through would mean challenging Ghana’s 1992 Constitution.

The 18-page memorandum noted that “the proposers of this far-reaching claim have not provided any data or evidence to suggest that there is such a threat, beyond a resort to some dogmatic religious tenets and so-called Ghanaian family values.”

The opposers said: “Christ’s message was/is that we should love our neighbour and not be judgmental and promote the hate and bigotry that many self-styled Christians exhibit and seek to impose on Ghanaian society.”

They argued per Article 18 of the Constitution that Ghana is a secular democracy and “not a theocratic Christian or Islamic Republic or an African traditional monarchy or chiefdom.”

“In other words, while it allows Christian, Islamic, African traditional and other religious beliefs and practices to exist in harmony with one another as fundamental rights, our Constitution rightfully forbids the imposition of a religious dogma, whether Christian or Islamic or traditional on Ghanaians.”

They cautioned the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs against creating a “society where the state, through legislation, imposes one view of ‘proper human sexual rights’.”

They also want the bill rejected.

Speaking about the bill and the raging debate on Accra-based Peace FM on Thursday, 21 October 2021, President Akufo-Addo told Kokrokoo host Kwame Sefa Kayi that: “It’s in parliament, it’s a private members’ bill – we’ve been fighting for a long time for the opportunity for private members to sponsor bills in parliament, I believe this is the first that is being sponsored under this opening that has been given – the parliament is looking at it and let’s see how the process develops”.

Asked if he feels pressured about it, Mr Akufo-Addo said: “I can’t feel pressured”.

“We’re talking about public opinion, we are talking about the legitimate processes that are being used”, he noted. 

He pointed out: “What I would hope for is that the debate itself would be civil and that we will recognise the need for us to be tolerant of each other even when there are opposing views”.

“I was, for instance, impressed by the intervention of some very renowned, well-positioned people within the civil society sector of our country, coming forward to express their views on the matter”, he added.

“I think that it would be a credit to Ghanaian democracy if this matter is handled in the correct manner”, the president stressed.

He said: “I believe the reference has been made to the Constitutional and Legal Committee, appropriately. That’s a committee that looks at the issue of rights and constitutionality of legislation in our parliament”.

“I hear that over 130 memoranda have been submitted to them. I am anticipating that they will all be looked at closely before they can come to some consensus”, he mentioned.

“The Chairman of the committee has spoken about what are his preoccupations which I think are very legitimate – be satisfied about the constitutionality and legality of what is being proposed. All these are part of the mix and I’m hoping that the process will be conducted in an acceptable manner and at the end of the day, we will know what the legislature, the position that it will take on the issue”.

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